In my opinion: technology can help retailers turn customer complaints into a good thing, says Salesforce

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Having a single view of the customer and their purchase journey can provide a retailer’s sales, customer service and marketing teams with the latest interactions, enabling them to proactively troubleshoot issues and ensure the customer receives a seamless experience across all shopping channels, says Gavin Mee, area vice president for enterprise, UKI at Salesforce

Mee:

Mee: single view is key

In today’s connected, always-on world retail customers have more power than ever before. They’re clued up and they know what they want, both online and in-store. In fact, according to a survey we conducted at the end of last year, the vast majority of UK shoppers (87%) research products online before making the purchase in-store. This means blurred lines between the online and physical shopping experience.

Consumer purchasing journeys have changed dramatically in the last few years. And it’s not just at the pre-purchase research stage. It’s become a far more complex – but potentially more enriching – experience.

Consumers don’t just want an individualised experience; they expect it. That’s throughout their entire encounter with a retailer. Whether shopping from their sofa, on the go, or in-store. This has created a shift; consumers are now far more in control of the relationship they have with retailers because engagement opportunities are no longer one-way.

The retailer no longer dictates the terms of interaction with shoppers. The cloud, mobile and social revolutions have empowered today’s shopper, transforming the relationship from B2C to Me2B. What does this mean?

Previously the brand led the conversation with their consumers – often targeting large groups with the same message. That’s no longer appropriate in today’s world where consumers now expect to engage a brand whenever it suits them and via their preferred channel or platform. Me2B is a growing trend. And while this creates a really exciting opportunity for brands, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Let’s have a think about how that customer journey could look in two different scenarios:

  1. Katherine has been looking for a new set of wireless speakers. She has been doing her research by reading product reviews and checking prices between retailers. She opts to order online via a service she’s used before, but collect in-store. Given it’s near her office, it is convenient. When Katherine arrives in-store, a sales assistant advises her that it’s been delayed and to contact the web team via email. Katherine sends an email and gets a generic response saying her query will be dealt with within 24 hours; however, after 24 hours and no response, she gets annoyed and vents her frustration to her 1,000+ followers on social media, magnifying the issue.
  1. Nick decided upon the same set of speakers, but via a different retailer. Once again, he orders online but opts to collect in-store – only the day before delivery, he receives an email saying it’s been delayed. He clicks a link to open a live webchat and engage an online customer service agent. After confirming his details, the agent is able to identify him – Nick is a valued customer and regularly makes purchases from the retailer. The agent arranges free delivery for the speakers at a convenient date/time/address for Nick. What’s more, they know he tweeted about wanting the wireless headphones from the same line. To apologise for the inconvenience, Nick is offered a 10% off digital voucher so he can buy the headphones, too. In just a few clicks, his issue is resolved and Nick is happy – even telling his social media followers what great customer service he just experienced, despite the delay. And because he purchased the headphones, the retailer made the most of its upsell opportunity.

The second scenario is a great example of Me2B coming into play. To meet the needs of today’s shoppers, retailers must deliver a personalised in-store journey blended with the online, mobile, and even door-to-door shopping journey.

Traditionally, retailers have invested in various systems, such as order management software, or a system to support e-commerce. But these have all been built on different platforms, meaning each department is operating in a silo. Fundamentally this creates a situation where customer facing staff (which often account for about 90% of all retail staff) are not empowered to have relevant, contextual and individualised interactions with customers.

It’s all about having a single view of the customer so that your staff are empowered to respond to and help them when and where they’re looking for help. By connecting the sales, customer service and marketing teams with the latest interactions, retailers have the tools to proactively and reactively troubleshoot issues in advance and ensure the customer receives a seamless experience, no matter which department they liaise with; whether online, on the phone or in-store.

And even when things don’t quite go to plan, it provides retailers with a much more succinct window to make it right. This is because they have that all-important 360 view of the customer. By being able to predict where issues may arise, or at least act swiftly to address them, it gives retailers a golden opportunity to regain trust, retain brand loyalty – and even generate further sales.

There’s an even bigger upside to it – your customers become your advocate. What could have been a problem amplified over social media has become a shining success story of a great experience.

The Me2B transformation is already well underway. Take ALDO – a leading footwear and accessory brand. Using Salesforce, the brand has been able to gain greater insight into its customers’ preferences to be able to serve them better. This increase in customer knowledge helps ALDO better anticipate the customers’ needs and expectations, as well as selecting the best channels to engage with them more effectively. And this is just one example of a brand embracing innovation to boost positive customer engagement.

There is no greater time than now for retailers to explore the technology available to them and really focus on driving 1-to-1 customer experiences. Today, it’s what will help you to make a lasting impression in the eyes of not just your customers, but those they choose to share that experience with.

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)